We were recently asked whether artificial lawns impact residential home values, and, based on our research, there have been no studies published in trade or academic journals that offer a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
From a review of articles and reports on this topic, some homeowners and buyers may have stigmas against artificial lawns, but there is actually quite a bit of positive literature out there—though no reliable studies specifically discuss return-on-investment or impact on property values.
Some of the results of our literature search on this topic are found below, along with a list of pros and cons of using artificial lawns, summarized from all the sources we reviewed.
- Many articles discuss the “green” or “eco” perspective of artificial lawns, due to water conservation concerns and regulations in many cities
- Eliminates need for lawn chemicals and pesticides
- Low maintenance
- Color stays green year-round
- Major improvements in artificial turf look over the last several years
- Heat (Lawn temperatures can be much higher than the air temperature)
- Some concern that artificial turf can contain lead or other harmful chemicals, though the CPSC and EPA have both conducted studies on artificial turf and found no cause for concern
- Stigma that artificial lawns are “tacky”
- Some homeowner associations have bans on artificial lawns
- Increased risk of injury is commonly discussed in cases where artificial turf is used in sports stadiums
Reports & Papers
- A Scoping-Level Field Monitoring Study of Synthetic Turf Fields and Playgrounds, (US Environmental Protection Agency, Nov. 2009).
- CPSC Staff Analysis and Assessment of Synthetic Turf “Grass Blades”, (US Consumer Products Safety Commission, 2008).
- See the Synthetic Turf: Health and Environmental Impacts page on Penn State’s Center for Sport Surface Research website for many scientific and state-focused studies on health and environmental concerns relating to artificial turf.
- Can You Tell When Grass Is Fake? (Smart Money, March 19, 2010).
- On Greener Turf, (Dwell, March 30, 2009).
- Just How Green Is Faux Grass? (Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2008).
- Suburbanites Are Installing Faux Grass That Fools Pets, (Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2001).
We recently compiled a list of resources for first-time home buyers, and came up with a nice list of information from the National Association of REALTORS®, REALTOR® Magazine online, Realtor.com, and HUD.
Field Guides from NAR
- Field Guide to Due Diligence for Home Buyers
- Field Guide to Working with First-Time Homebuyers
- Field Guide to Buying vs. Renting
- Field Guide to Homeowner’s Insurance
Find our full list of Field Guides here, as other guides may be helpful to first-time buyers, such as Credit Scoring, Flood Insurance, Lead-Based Paint, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, or Land Investment. All field guides are accessible without a username and password, so anyone can take a look.
Products available for purchase through the Realtor.org Store
Resources from REALTOR® Magazine Online
- Handouts for Customers – See this large list of handouts for buyers and sellers on practical topics such as loan types to consider, how to improve your credit score, preparing for closing, and more.
Guides from Realtor.com
Resources from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Recently a member contacted the NAR library for research on modular homes, including their resale value and impact on adjacent property values. We provided articles, reports, statistics, and additional resources that may be helpful in building the case that modular homes appreciate in value just as “stick homes” do, and that they do not negatively impact property values in the surrounding community. Please note that many sources use the terms “manufactured” and “modular” interchangeably, or use terms like “prefabricated housing” to denote all types, but we have focused our research on modular homes wherever possible.
- “Fresh Thinking,” (Builder, May 2010).
- “Dispelling the Myths of Modular Construction,” (Buildings, January 2008).
- “Fabulous Prefab,” (REALTOR® Magazine, February 2007).
Modular Homes: Modular Home Building Council (National Association of Home Builders). A directory of articles on modular homes from NAHB
Reports and Studies
Trends and Information About the Manufactured Housing Industry (Manufactured Housing Institute, 2012)
Provides industry overview, demographic information on owners of manufactured homes, cost/size comparisons of new manufactured and new single-family site-built homes from 2007-2011, advantages of manufactured housing, and number of manufactured home shipments by state in 2011.
Understanding Today’s Manufactured Housing (Manufactured Housing Institute, 2012)
Provides a detailed explanation of the HUD code and discusses the impact of manufactured homes on property values and local community services.
Overcoming Barriers to Placing Manufactured Housing in Metropolitan Communities (Journal of the American Planning Association, Winter 2010).
Abstract: Manufactured housing is an option that is relatively little used in metropolitan communities although it appears to provide a quality-cost advantage over site-built housing. This article examines barriers to placing manufactured housing in metropolitan areas that planners might influence, focusing particularly on land use and design regulations. The authors paired data from a nationwide survey of planners in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)-eligible metropolitan communities with information on those communities’ characteristics to estimate several regression models explaining two measures of manufactured housing supply using both supply- and demand-side variables. A variety of regulatory restrictions, including the lack of by-right zoning, as well as permits, snow load standards, fire codes, zoning codes, subdivision regulations, and architectural design standards impede the placement of manufactured housing in metropolitan communities. The authors suggest that planners emphasize manufactured housing as an affordable housing option and they offer suggestions for accomplishing this.
Manufactured Housing Appreciation: Stereotypes and Data (Consumers Union, April 2003)
This report focuses on manufactured homes in the “mobile home” sense of the term, and asks “How do mobile homes appreciate relative to site-built housing?”
An Examination of Manufactured Housing as a Community- and Asset-Building Strategy (Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, September 2002)
Comprehensive report on all aspects of manufactured and modular housing, including its evolution, finance challenges, and model community development strategies. Also includes a lengthy bibliography of sources.
The Impact of Manufactured Housing on Adjacent Site Built Residential Properties in Two Alabama Counties (Southern Business Review, Fall 2000)
Compares appraised values and appreciation figures for manufactured and site-built homes in two Alabama counties.
Factory and Site-Build Housing: A Comparison for the 21st Century (NAHB Research Center, Inc., October 1998)
Distinguishes modular housing separately from manufactured housing, and discusses trends, regulatory processes, code requirements, cost, and more.
The Future of Manufactured Housing (Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University, January 1997)
This is an older study, but I have included it for historical reference value, and for an interesting table (Exhibit 8, page 15), which compares repair activity performed by all home owners compared to repair activity performed by manufactured home owners; the exhibit shows that the owners of manufactured homes spend less money and time performing repairs—even as far back as 1991-1993.
Manufactured Housing: An Industry Overview (Manufactured Housing Institute, May 16, 2012)
A comprehensive slideshow on manufactured housing on the advantages in quality and cost of manufactured housing (including some great photos), sales statistics, historical trends, and industry outlook
Books from the NAR library
We have several books on modular housing available for check out from the NAR Library. Please note that a $10 shipping fee is required, and we limit checkouts to 3 books at a time. I have provided one title below, but please feel free to search the library catalog for additional titles on modular housing.
The Modular Home, by Andrew Gianino (2005)
Institutes and Associations
Recently a Massachusetts REALTOR asked for research on split-tax rates for real property tax. His community had a single tax rate for residential and commercial properties but was thinking of breaking them apart so commercial properties would be taxed at a higher rate. He was worried about the impact on future business development and growth in the community. Our research shows that “split tax rate,” “dual tax rate,” and “classification law” are the most commonly-used terms for this type of tax in Massachusetts. Research on California tax discusses a “split roll” tax so we searched on that too.
Below are results of our search, showing reports/studies, tax rate comparison reports, and news articles on split tax rates. Search for news articles were limited to Massachusetts communities, but there are lots more out there for other states.
An Analysis of Split Roll Property Tax Issues and Impacts, (Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, Mar. 2012).
Executive Summary: Despite dramatic increases in state revenues over the past decade, even greater spending increases, coupled with the nation’s recent economic collapse and weak recovery, have left the state of California with a budget deficit estimated at between $10 and $20 billion. Advocates for closing the gap through tax increases have introduced a series of proposals for new ways to increase state revenues. One proposal that has received significant discussion periodically over the past several decades, and is again being discussed, is the elimination of the caps on property tax increases for businesses included in Proposition 13, which is often referred to as the “split roll” proposal. This study was undertaken to review the split roll proposal and to assess the prospective impact on the state economy if a split roll tax regime were adopted…Overall, this study finds that a split roll property tax regime would have a significant and detrimental impact on the state’s economy, especially at a time when the California economy is struggling.
An Introduction to Two-Rate Taxation of Land and Buildings, (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review, May/Jun. 2005).
Abstract: When taxing real property at the local level in the United States, land and improvements to the land, such as buildings, are generally taxed at the same rate. Two-rate (or split-rate) taxation departs from this practice by taxing land at a higher rate than structures. This paper begins with an elementary discussion of taxation and the economic rationale for two-rate taxation. In theory, moving to a two-rate tax reduces the deadweight losses associated with distortionary taxation and generates additional economic activity. The paper also provides a history of two-rate taxation in the United States and a summary of studies attempting to quantify its economic effects. Discussions of the practical and political challenges of implementing two-rate taxation complete the paper.
Assessing the Distributive Impact of a Revenue-Neutral Shift from a Uniform Property Tax to a Two-Rate Property Tax with a Uniform Credit, (National Tax Journal, Jun. 2005).
Abstract: A number of economists have argued that a property tax with a lower rate applied to improvement values than to land values is superior to a property tax with a uniform tax rate that yields the same total revenue. This paper explores the statutory incidence of shifting to two-rate property taxation from single-rate property taxation. The authors recommend a tax credit provision to mitigate the regressive tendencies of this type of tax reform.
‘Splitting the Roll’ – What are the Implications for Business and Tax Policy, (Real Estate Taxation, Third Quarter 2004).
Abstract: Property taxes exist in all states although exemptions, rates, and the tax base vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. On average, 72.3% of local taxes collected are property taxes.1 Thus, the property tax is a crucial tax for local governments. Many states have limitations, and sometimes prohibitions, on local governments assessing income taxes. Thus, local governments often look to the sales tax and property tax when additional revenue is needed. The discussion below will focus on what some states, most notably California, have proposed over the past few years to increase property tax revenues. In particular, it will examine what are often referred to as “split roll” proposals because they propose to tax real property owned by businesses differently from that of homeowners. The property tax is an ad valorem tax based on a percentage of the value of property. Real property is taxed by the jurisdiction in which the property is located (rather than where the owner resides). Jurisdictions often have different categories of real property. Typically, a function of the different categories is to enable different rules to be applied to each category. Such differences may be in tax rates, due dates, assessment procedures, and assessment ratios. Common categories are residential, commercial, and agricultural. Categories may be further broken down into public utility, mineral, and industrial.
Split Rate Property Tax Guide, (Instant Advocate, California Transportation and Land Use Coalition via HousingPolicy.org, 2004).
This toolkit provides a thorough examination of how to implement a split-rate property tax system, and includes case studies of cities that have adopted a similar system, economic analyses of the costs of implementation, and links to even more information (source: HousingPolicy.org).
Businesses Shoulder Higher Property Tax Burden Under State’s “Classification” Law, (Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Nov. 19, 1998).
This is a news release with a summary of the MTF report; I was unable to locate the full report. This summary provides a history of the split tax law in Massachusetts, here named the “Classification” law.
Tax Rate Comparisons
Number of Communities with Split Tax Rates, (Mass.gov – Official Website of the Department of Revenue, no date). Scroll to Excel document titled “Number of Communities with Split Tax Rates” near the bottom of the page.
50-State Property Tax Comparison Study, (Minnesota Taxpayers Association and Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2011). Compares residential and commercial property tax rankings for all states.
The Fallacy of a Dual Tax Rate: Presentation to Wellesley Board of Selectmen, (Innovation & Information Consultants, Inc., on behalf of Wellesley Chamber of Commerce, Sept. 26, 2011).
Provides background, implications, and equity/fairness issues on dual tax rates, as well as comparisons with tax rates of other Massachusetts communities. Concludes that dual tax rates do not increase tax revenue.
- Narrow The Tax-Rate Gaps, (WBJournal, Jun. 25, 2012)
- Dueling Over Dual Tax Rates, (WBJournal, Updated Apr. 19, 2012)
- Business, homeowners wary of shouldering more taxes, (Wellesley Townsman, Oct. 19, 2011)
A new visa program for overseas investors is slowly wending its way through congress. We’ve covered it before in the blog, but a member recently asked for an update . There hasn’t been a whole lot of recent discussion of this topic in the larger publications (NYT, WSJ, etc.), so we provided what we could locate in other sources. We also provided older articles and blogs that will provide context and opinion, as well as legislative information with summaries, actions, and committee assignments.
VISIT-USA Act Would Give Home Buyers a 3-Year Visa, (LawInfo [blog], Jan. 3, 2012)
VISIT USA Act Will Give Foreign Investors in Florida Real Estate a US Visa With $500K+ Purchase (JDSupra, Dec. 14, 2011)
United States: Give me your Gucci-clad masses; Visas for dollars (The Economist, Dec. 3, 2011)
Does the VISIT-USA Act Make Sense? (Yahoo News, Nov. 1, 2011)
Older articles/blogs offering context
Clarifying Elements of the VISIT-USA Act (Mike Lee, US Senator for Utah [blog], Oct. 20, 2011)
U.S. Travel Association Commends VISIT USA Act (U.S. Travel Association, Oct. 20, 2011)
Foreigners’ Sweetener: Buy House, Get a Visa (Wall Street Journal, Oct. 20, 2011)
Bill would encourage foreigners to buy U.S. homes (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 20, 2011)
Adopting retirement visa scheme would boost Florida market, say realtors (TheMoveChannel.com, Oct. 12, 2011)
H.R. 3341, The Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America (VISIT USA) Act (U.S. House of Representatives Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono, Hawaii)
Open Congress: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-s1746/show
See this site for official bill summary, recent news coverage, and recent blog coverage
Last action: Nov 21, 2011: House Judiciary: Referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. See more detailed actions at the New York Times site.
Committee Assignments: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h112-3341&tab=committees
Last action: Oct 20, 2011: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Committee Assignments: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s112-1746&tab=committees
Google introduced the term “superphone” in January with the launch of the Nexus One Google phone. According to Google VP Andy Rubin, the new term refers to all the innovations that superphones have that didn’t exist a couple years ago.
Now there’s a lot of industry discussion on what distinguishes a superphone from the widely-used smartphones.
While a smartphone has features like a touchscreen, a camera, applications, and web browsing capabilities, superphones’ screens are larger, and they have impressive cameras that allow for high-quality photo and video capturing. Superphones also have better software that allows for more multitasking, social applications are more integrated, and web browsing is more advanced and faster due to open-source browsers.
This chart from Mobile Beat highlights some basic differences in features:
Samsung’s CSO Omar Khan has said superphones are the “power of a netbook in the palm of your hand…What users expect is the same experience they have on their netbooks or PCs in an uncompromised fashion.”
A recent Pew Internet survey supports Khan’s thinking: Compared with April 2009, cell phone owners are now more likely to use their mobile phones to take pictures, text, browse the internet, and record videos.
So which superphones are best? JKontherun.com lists the top 5 to watch
- HTC EVO
- Nexus One
- HTC Desire
- HTC HD2
- Samsung Galaxy S
For additional information on smartphones, check out Information Central’s Field Guide to Choosing & Using a Smartphone